He is, by all accounts, the second best player to ever come out of South Korea and now he’s officially a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

In what must be the worst kept secret in MLS history, the Caps finally confirmed the signing of 34-year-old defender Lee Young-Pyo Tuesday (after the Korean press reported on it last week, after the Whitecaps themselves accidentally uploaded a blooper video confirming the signing, after FIFA’s website reported on it and after Lee himself tweeted the news).

No matter, Lee’s signing is official now and it seems the Whitecaps have picked up a player with real pedigree as they continue to radically transform the last place squad into 2012 hopefuls.

Better yet, the Whitecaps have confirmed that Lee is not a designated player (and will likely sport a cap hit below $335,000) and will play at right back (alleviating fears that Alain Rochat would be again forced out of his natural left back position).

“Lee is a quality individual and leader – both on and off the pitch – that has excelled at all levels of the game and we are thrilled he will be joining our club,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie in a news release. “He has played midfield, as well as fullback during his distinguished career and the addition of Lee as a right back to our side will help strengthen our defensive backline.”

Lee starred for South Korea in the 2002 World Cup and is considered the country’s most decorated player outside of current Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung.

At club level, he was a standout at PSV Eindhoven and also had stints at English Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur and German Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund.

He spent the last two seasons playing for Al-Hilal of the Saudi Professional League.

“I am very thankful for my experiences as a professional soccer player in Asia and Europe and now I look forward to this new opportunity in Vancouver,” said Lee in the release.
“Soccer in North America is growing and Major League Soccer has become a highly-
respected league in the world game. I am excited to begin this new chapter of my career with Whitecaps FC and to make Vancouver my new home.”

The club’s new right back will be introduced to media Wednesday morning.

The signing is the biggest news of the Whitecaps’ off-season so far, but there have already been plenty of changes.

Earlier this week, the club announced that goalkeeper Joe Cannon and midfielder John Thorrington have been re-signed – while former No. 1 keeper Jay Nolly has been traded to the Chicago Fire for a 2013 Supplemental Draft pick.

Alexandre Morfaw (waived), Shea Salinas (traded to San Jose), Jeb Brovsky (picked by Montreal in the expansion draft), Bilal Duckett (waived), Nizar Khalfan (acquired off waivers by Philadelphia) have all left the club as new coach Martin Rennie rebuilds the squad.

Bryce Alderson, the Caps’ Residency captain last year, has been signed to an MLS contract and the re-signing of Atiba Harris rounds up the club’s moves so far this off-season.

The new-look Vancouver Whitecaps open the season at B.C. Place on March 10 against bitter rivals Montreal Impact (making their MLS debut).

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